Anyone with a computer is able to download the plans for guns and turn them into real gun parts. 30-year-old software engineer Travis Lerol uses a 3D printer to make a lower receiver for an AR-15 at his home. The process takes about 10 hours.
(image courtesy of Jahi Chikwendiu / The Washington Post)
Lerol said he has no plans to print anything outlawed by the government. Making guns for personal use is legal in U.S. But Lerol is nervous that the push for gun control will infringe on his Second Amendment rights.
(image courtesy of Jahi Chikwendiu / The Washington Post)
"There's really no one controlling what you do in your own home," says Travis Lerol. He has not yet tested his parts at a gun range.
To make a gun you still need machining know-how and a variety of parts. But gun-control advocates and technology experts say the specter of printable firearms and ammunition magazines poses a challenge for Obama and lawmakers to push for new restrictions.
"Restrictions are difficult to enforce in a world where anybody can make anything," said Hod Lipson, a 3-D printing expert at Cornell University and co-author of the new book, "Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing." "Talking about old-fashioned control will be very ineffective."
Lipson agrees that a more effective gun control solution worth exploring might impose legal limitations on gunpowder rather than gun parts and accessories such as magazines.
Says Lipson: "If I were talking to lawmakers, I would encourage them to address the most basic part of a firearm – the energy source. You must have gunpowder to fire a weapon. The law could regulate the explosives. To fire a bullet, you need high-energy propellant like gunpowder. After all, 3-D printed and arbitrarily shaped plastic firearms are going to be increasingly hard to detect using traditional screening techniques. A high-capacity magazine might look like something else. It may be more effective to control the gunpowder."
It is unclear how many people are trying to print their own gun parts and magazines. But at least one site, Defense Distributed, could tell how many blueprints are downloaded already. Cody Wilson, a University of Texas law student who started DEFCAD, a website that allows people to upload and download files for printable gun components, annouced yesterday on Twitter that "250,000+ files have been downloaded from DEFCAD so far!" He told venturebeat on the phone that "DEFCAD gets an average of 3,000 visitors per hour, representing roughly 2TB of traffic since launch."
"People all over the world are downloading this stuff all the time — way more people than actually have 3-D printers," he said.
What printer and material can be used for printing a receiver and mags? What Travis Lerol uses at home is a $1,300 Cube 3D printer made by 3D Systems. Actually all those cheap entry-level 3D printers can be used to make plastic gun parts.
"The threat is not of 3-D printing military-grade weapon components from standard blueprints on industrial 3-D printers," Lipson said. "The challenge is that [do-it-yourself] 3D printers can be used by anyone to print rogue, disposable and shoddy guns that could be used to fire a few rounds, then be recycled into a flower vase."
Legislators start to worry and want to add additional gun control. Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat, wants to renew the Undetectable Firearms Act, a law due to expire at the end of the year. It prohibits manufacturing or possessing a gun that can't be detected by metal detectors. Israel says he does not intend to ban 3D printer, but about the use of a 3D printer to manufacture a weapon that can't be detected by airport security scanners.
3D printer manufacturers are also worried. Abe Reichental, CEO of 3D Systems, said he is open to working with members of the industry and legislators to restrict certain shapes from being printed.
"We don't want to prevent printing anything that is legal and proper," he said. "But we want to be responsible. We want to do good. We want to be a force that helps shape the goodness of this technology and its use."
Source: Washington Post
Posted in 3D Printing Applications
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jake wrote at 5/15/2013 12:30:33 PM:
If you had a choice between the Liberator and a slingshot for going against the zombie apocalypse, Which Would You Choose?
James wrote at 4/15/2013 5:33:54 PM:
american idiots.. leave your dumb comments out of a forum. This has nothing to do with any country or enthnicity. 3d printing can bring the end to a huge part of monopolies.. altho, the ingenuity and $$ to make things is still an issue, but a lot of things can be made that replace expensive and environmentally unsafe products...
John wrote at 2/26/2013 1:45:13 AM:
common sense wrote at 2/22/2013 12:14:44 AM:
Anyone can go out and buy a gun on Craigslist. Trying to block particular shapes from being printed sounds like something big business is pushing for to protect their old manufacturing models the same way the music industry has battled mp3's over the last 2 decades. Latching onto the gun-control band-wagon is just a cheap ploy and stinks of fear mongering.
sigh... wrote at 2/22/2013 12:00:01 AM:
A person can make a zipgun with zero tools and $5 worth of parts from the hardware store in a few minutes but you're concerned someone with a $1000+ 3d printer and technical expertise might spend hours printing a single brittle plastic gun part? I bet you'd be terrified to learn about automated CNC mills that have let people make real, METAL guns at the push of a button for decades.
Jeff wrote at 2/21/2013 5:59:44 PM:
Personally, I refuse to deal with any company that will restrict what I can make with thier product. Doesn't matter if its guns, auto parts or paperweights. If you, as a manufacturer of a 3d printer or a company making software, try to block me from making a type of item, I will boycott your company.
anon wrote at 2/21/2013 3:40:25 PM:
And you're missing the point. The technology is there, if this weren't done in the public eye for all to see, it would be done in the shop of a smart criminal. Then as you say if one were used in a crime the end result would be no different. This will necessarily motivate lawmakers and the public in general to evaluate the underlying causes of these criminal actions rather than passing continual useless laws directed at inanimate objects.
Sane wrote at 2/21/2013 9:19:58 AM:
You are so fucking dumb. You see no consequences to your actions? will it only take someone shooting your kid in kindergarten with a home-printed plastic rifle for you to put the dots together?? fucking american idiots...